It’s breakfast the week after the snow, and I am having a morning cuppa with one of the guests, an Irish guy who always seems to be cheerful. 28 days what? is my reply. The homeless shelter scheme which runs from December to March closes in 28 days. What happens then? Either he gets accommodation or he literally will be on the streets.
Getting accommodation isn’t the only issue. Many are empty units with no furniture and providing even second hand furniture costs money. Access to recycling groups like Haringey Freecycle assumes you have access to the internet. A chat about this with one of the organisers and the word “resources” comes up, reminding me of a possible source. The telephone conversation was months ago and I eventually find the site. The guy remembers me and I have not forgotten his final comment about not over-promising and that their due diligence is very thorough.
Shortage of resources is for once, not the problem. One lesson that I learned years ago where fund raising for entrepreneurs was concerned (next 3Cs meeting 20th March) was that there is no shortage of money in the world. In the history of mankind, there has never been so much of the stuff slushing about the world’s financial system. It may be well hidden, but there is plenty of it – slump or no slump.
The issue is not just furniture. Funding cuts have removed a full-time paid person who should be getting people into the shelter system plus you really need one for moving them on into permanent accommodation. This means: job descriptions, business plans, budgets, office space, health & safety issues all leading to the question: How much do you need? Volunteers have families too and with a full-time job, you cannot work 24 hours a day as my friend explains. Is it worth my friend applying? Yes, the foundation guy says, so let’s see how that goes.
Over to You
Weeks have gone by and one church has done its bit, so the job of providing Saturday night accommodation has moved onto another church for the rest of the season. Rather than a purpose-built church from the nineteenth century, this church is on an industrial estate in another part of north London. Off-road parking is not a problem and we climb the iron staircase up to the first floor. Dinner has been served, some of the guests are playing table tennis and set-up volunteers are putting out the inflatable mattresses and making the beds. A table with liquid refreshment stays in the middle of the room as the tennis table is put away and bed-making completed. The room is multi-purpose and all looks new, clean and warm.
Tonight there are 9 guests, 8 guys and 1 lady and lights out is at 11pm. Two other volunteers are covering until 4am so that leaves 90 mins each until 7am when it’s lights on and breakfast reminding me of the dawn scene from the 1965 French Sc-Fi movie Alphaville.
Unusually, there is food for the troops with chicken, rice and steamed veg, but having had something beforehand I settle for finishing off some very nice and healthy homemade lentil soup. Two extra mattresses are put in an adjoining office room with loads of computer screens covered with the packing showing the screen resolution?? numbers at heading. It is lights out but no sleep, as two volunteers are chatting loudly next door which must be keeping some guests awake as well. My co-volunteer pops next door to deliver a yellow-card warning as she puts it, and it turns out I don’t have to deliver a stronger red-card request later.
The Babes are Asleep
No washing machines at the venue so no widow-Twankey duties and it’s head down until my alarm at 4am for my middle-shift. To avoid the risk of falling asleep while on watch, I sit in the room where you might say, the babes are asleep. Continuous snoring from my previously-mentioned happy friend and intermittent snoring from a couple of others. It’s still dark at 4.55am when the dawn chorus starts making me wish I could identify the birds concerned. My relief comes at 5.30am so I make myself an early morning coffee before a final nap.
Morning crew arrive and food tables are set out for cereals, coffee, tea and fruit juice. The chef starts cooking breakfast with the food having been placed ready in the fridge in the middle of the night. Sausages with onions, baked beans and scrambled egg are prepared together with a huge steaming bowl of oatmeal porridge. As the guests shower and sit down for breakfast, the bedding is put away for next week. Appetites are not huge and the lady guest does not stay for breakfast. Only one guest tries the porridge together with one volunteer, so nearly all of it is thrown away. I am on toast duty (white & brown) where all seem to eat.
28 day chappie has found a studio flat and is seeing the landlord later but only has two rings for cooking. That is twice as many as I had in my first bedsit when I left home (those were the days) but decide not to mention it.
All bedding stacked away now and it’s back in two weeks. Stepping out into the daylight, it’s Good Morning Sunday and I am back at home before 9am.